Saturday, October 26, 2013

Trip to the Fair

Today, we made our annual stop to the livestock barn at the Jackson County Fair.  Pax crashed on our way, so he slept through the entire visit in his awesome Bob jogging stroller.  However, Abby had a blast seeing all of the animals and fell in love with at least a couple before we left.  We even had a nice family volunteer to take a photo of all of us together.  Did I mention I love living in the South?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Highlights from this Summer

I am long overdue for a life update, but that's how we roll in the Cirlot residence.

Lots has happened since I gave my last update.

We kicked off the summer with a trip to Fort Morgan, Alabama with Bryan's side of the family.

Abby and her great grandmother on the schooner celebrating her cousin Cade's birthday.

Pax thought throwing sand was mad fun.  He wasn't too crazy about swimming in the Gulf though.  He likes rivers and pools much more.

We visited Fort Morgan and explored it as a crew.
The kids even participated in a sweet sibling moment to appease their mother.

In July, Pax finally had his surgery to correct his tongue tie.  Other than having a terrible time with anesthesia, everything was a breeze.

You can see he isn't a fan of anything that causes early mornings to happen.

Pax quickly was back on his feet like a pro.  The summer continued with ice cream sandwiches (gluten free, of course!) and lots of time outdoors.

Pax being ridiculously cute in our little plastic pool.  It was $35 well spent two summers ago!

It's hard to beat frozen treats in summer heat.

As the summer came to a close, Abby started her K-4 year, and Pax and I have been flexing to find a new routine without big sissy's help.  Church@The Square finally moved into our new building, and we are so excited about the new chapter that is waiting for our family and ministry.

Abby posing while her buddy Bongo watches wistfully wishing he was the center of attention.
Laundry time is fun in an 18 month old's world.

This past week, we vacationed at the camp.  It felt great to slow down as a family!  Maybe, I'll do a post soon to share some highlights from our trip.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Motherhood Is Not For the Faint of Heart

Motherhood is not for wimps.  It is not for sprinters.

You will be required to run a marathon whether or not you feel trained for it.  

I overslept my alarm this morning, which means I woke up to Abby running down the hallway and Pax stirring in his bedroom.  Moments into alertness, I'm changing diapers, pouring cereal, cleaning up messes, and commanding the day.  I like to wake up slowly, even if it means forfeiting precious sleep. There was nothing slow about today.

Pax was testy.  I'd like to say it was because he is teething, but I think we both have to admit at this point that it is just because he is 17 months old.  

He thinks the world should revolve around him still, and he is learning the painful truth that it does not. My old familiar archenemy fatigue was dragging down my pace, and Abby's energy was causing her to run laps around the house in search of an outlet to satisfy her curiosity.

Pax was melting down over everything from the cereal not dancing in front of him to the chairs being too white that he sat in.  

Realizing that I was not going to be able to keep up with them while doing chores, we forfeited all and started working towards leaving the house for a splash park visit.  An hour later, we made it to the car mostly in one piece. It took me 10 minutes and more spankings than we'd like to admit to push Pax into the carseat against his will. 15 teary and tantrum minutes later, Abby and I emerged as war victims from the car, and Pax looked content that he had let us know how frustrated he was in transit.

I let the kids run and play at the splash park until Pax clearly needed to nap.  I loaded them back up into the car with towels bundled on top, and we made another 15 teary and tantrum minutes later back home with Pax and stuck him in bed.  Abby was a trooper and helped me unload the car.  I filled her full of PBJ sandwiches and laid her down for a nap.

Now, in the quiet, I rest for a minute before Pax wakes up and we do the whole thing again.

I frequently have people ask me why I would leave a profitable career to stay at home with my kids. It's not because it is easier.  

It is easier to change diapers when you make $25 an hour to do it.  It's easier to care for a grumpy toddler when you know you get to say goodbye at the end of your shift and leave him.

I do it because of the Gospel.  I believe that Jesus is real and that this world is at war against the Enemy. I believe the most powerful moments of influence we have over our children are in the trenches of motherhood.

I want to invest every moment I have into training my children to love and follow Jesus well because our time on earth is short and the days are evil.  

When my energy is low and I wish I could hide away under my fluffy down comforter, I am teaching Abby and Pax that I treasure them more than sleep when I still get up and serve them to the best of my ability.

When our groceries run low at the end of the month, I teach Abby and Pax to be thankful that God has provided us food by not complaining and demonstrating a thankful heart as we eat bean tortillas or PBJs again.

When Pax pushes me over the edge and I respond in grace, Abby gets to see that being a mother is hard but that God gives grace to the weak and that kids are still valuable even when inconvenient.

Abby tells me she wants to have ninety kids one day.  I smile about it and imagine her running an orphanage with her outgoing personality and boundless energy.  I'm thankful that she sees motherhood as a gift and not a burden.  I hope I get better at demonstrating that.

Moms, none of us are perfect.  Most of us are tired.  Let's remember that serving our families is not worthless or vain.  In fact, everything we do for Jesus' glory, even in the shadows behind closed doors, is important.  Keep running the race.  In the Spirit's power, we can finish well.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV)

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Have Great Second Day Curly Hair

I'm going to be posting a blog soon about deciding to go shorter with my curly hair, but someone asked me today to post some tips about how to wear great second day curly hair.  I had originally made a video blog (vlog) earlier this year about it, but life got busy and I never posted.  I redid the video today with my shorter cut and it's more detailed.  However, I still decided to post the original video, because I thought it might be helpful to show how you can do second day curly hair with various lengths and styles.

I won't claim to be a great vlogger.  It is incredibly awkward to video yourself on your iphone or webcam, but hopefully the information will still be good!  I give props to all of the frequent vloggers out there.  I prefer writing any day.

Let me know if you have any questions!  I love to talk about curly hair.

My Favorite Ways to Style Second Day Curls from Peripety Designs on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All or Nothing

I've been going through the book of Matthew in the mornings, and one of the stories just popped out at me today. Matthew mentions a woman in chapter 9 that had been suffering for 12 years with a blood discharge that had been incurable. In her context, chronic bleeding would have made her "unclean" and she would have been excluded from normal social and religious functions.

Sickness and isolation.

12 long years. Then, we read in the other Gospels that she had spent her wealth going to different physicians who tried unsuccessfully to find a cure. Can you imagine how hopeless her situation was?

After bleeding for 12 years, I can't help but think that this woman was surely anemic at this point.

The fatigue that anemia brings feels like hundred pound weights attached to every part of your body where doing absolutely anything is exhausting.

When I was at my worst, I couldn't sit up in a chair. It was too exhausting. I lost my drive to do anything, and resting was still tiring. During those down days, I didn't go anywhere, because I knew I wouldn't have the energy and strength to get back from my destination. It was isolating and felt hopeless.

Photo by Ruth Livingstone courtesy of stock.xchng
I relate to this woman. I am so thankful that God spared me 12 years of waiting for relief. Two years were tough enough. The story goes on to tell us as we piece it together through reading the accounts in the Gospels that this woman heard about Jesus, sought him out, and pushed through a crowd to touch the hem of His garment.

The energy she expended to get to Jesus demonstrates her faith. 

This was an all or nothing moment for her. Either she was going to meet the Master and find healing or there was nothing left for her. I love that Scripture goes on to tell us that Jesus knew the moment "she" touched Him. He felt power leave Him, and upon seeing her He said, "Take heart, daughter, your faith has made your well (Mt. 9:22)." At that moment, she was well.

In this life, we all face things that are too big for us.

It may not be an illness.  It could be the death of a child or an irreconcilable relationship that makes our hearts ache for heaven.  While our faith in Jesus may not provide the physical relief or the relational healing we hope for (clearly, not every person who has faith is healed or relieved of their difficult circumstances), we will not be disappointed when we leave this world to pursue our Savior.  It's all or nothing.  When we have faith and reach out to Him, Jesus will look at us and say, "Take heart, child, your faith has made you well."

Indeed, it will be well for us.  

Illness, heartache, broken dreams, and shattered realities will be only a vapor as we realize that all we really needed was not the healing we pressed forward for in a moment of desperation. No, what our souls really longed for was Jesus Himself. In Jesus, we, who have nothing to offer, have gained all and lost nothing. Any heartache this world can bring cannot compare with the joy to come.

Indeed, dear believer, it is well for us.

"And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.(Matthew 9:20-22, ESV)"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Simple Photography Wall on a Budget

I have a confession.  I like to rearrange things... a lot.  Since we have been married, we hardly let a few months go by before we rearrange our furniture.

I like change.  It keeps me from feeling stagnant.  It keeps my mind creative.  It makes life feel fresh.

Since I have gotten sick, we haven't rearranged our furniture nearly as often, because I simply did not have the energy to do anything that was not necessary.  Three weeks into the new treatments, I am beginning to feel like my old self again.  I actually "want" to do things to get our life in order again.  That feels good.

Last night, Bryan and I rearranged the living room again, and I created a thrifty chic display on the wall for photos that were taken this past December in one of our favorite spots.  I like it.

Before: Our blank wall that has driven me crazy for about a year now.
After: We flipped our sectional around to open up the living and dining area more.  I really like the simplicity of hanging the photos with metal clips on a sheer ribbon.  We used eye hooks to mount the ribbon and keep it tight.
After:  Here's our display at a different angle.  I printed the photos online at Artsy Couture and chose a metallic finish.  Let me tell you... the print quality is unparalleled.

Walking into a room with beautiful photography makes me happy.  This little project didn't cost us a dime.

It feels good to see our home transform again into a beautiful, restful retreat from the world.

How do you make your house your home?  What do you like to decorate with?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Removing the Dross

In elementary school, I was introduced to the brilliant idea of extra credit. I loved it. I worked the system like a champ, and I made sure I made perfect scores on every test I took so that the bonus points could build a cushion for my off days. I liked seeing 110/A on tests. I really liked knowing that I would still have a perfect average even if I had a bad day in the future. It was secure, safe, and I was confident that I would be successful in school. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be the valedictorian, and I knew insulating my grades would help achieve that goal. I was right. It did.

So naturally, as I've matured and grown up in life, that same mentality has shifted into almost every other area of life.  

When we heard about Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial advisor, and his plan to become and stay debt free, we jumped on board. I loved his smart advice, and I loved the financial security of being insulated from any possible emergency or pitfall in the future. I sold out for his plan 100%, started a home business to make it possible, and I leveraged everything to help us become more financially secure.

Enter church planting. It rocked our world. Enter Pax. I became too sick to keep up with the world I had built, and God didn't heal me. Enter confusion. Up until this point, God had provided in miraculous ways to keep us debt free, and for this season, He didn't. Enter anger. I felt that God had abandoned me in my suffering, and I didn't understand why He was not providing for our needs. Enter despair. I knew I was helpless, and I was ashamed that I couldn't keep up with the system ideal I had set for my life.  Enter the Prosperity Gospel. When I tried to find comfort in other Christians, I often heard that God blesses those He loves, and Sin is the reason God withdraws His blessing. Enter struggle. I wrestled with God and myself. I knew we were following God. I knew life was hard. I knew He was my only Hope for peace. I knew I needed Him.

Enter rest.  I'm here.  

It's because of the Word. Scripture redefined my worldview, and I realized suffering was what I needed to purge the false theology that I had made my own. God had to take away the "dross from my heart to make a suitable vessel for His Spirit (Prov. 25:4 paraphrase)." I needed His refining fire to melt away everything that was competing with Him to make His Spirit shine brighter in me than everything else. The process has been painful. I can't say I have enjoyed the journey, but I am thankful that God sometimes withholds His provision for a season to expose our hearts and ultimately lead us to a greater dependency on Him. (There is an incredible sermon about this here that Dr. Russell Moore preached back in 2010 if you'd like to explore this idea more.)

I still love the idea of being debt free so that you are more free to give. I want to be there again with my whole heart. However, it's not an idol for me anymore. If we are never debt free again but are faithfully using our resources for the Kingdom and not merely for our own pleasure, we won't have failed. The funny thing about being married to a pastor is that you usually get to be a living sermon example for whatever he is passionate about. Bryan hates the Prosperity Gospel and the way it has tainted the worldview of the Church.

We are getting to live out that following Jesus doesn't always lead to financial security and prosperity, but it will lead to peace in Christ.

Jesus is worth more than anything.

John Piper teaches, "Purity only comes through the refining fire." (You can listen to that sermon here.) The good news is that the refining fire is ultimately for our good. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God." Matthew 5:8

As John Piper preaches, "What is life like in the refiner's fire? More than anything else it is the unshakeable trust that all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness. And on the path to purity and heaven the truth is this: no pain, no gain. Both things are true: the Lord is like a refiner's fire, and a refiner's fire is a fire."

Dear Christian as you struggle in this world and are beat down by the accusations of those around you who question you and judge you for not being successful on their terms, you may be exactly where God wants you to be. God doesn't care about your worldly success. He cares about His glory and your good. God will refine you until you reflect His Son well.

It is a good thing. He will sustain you. Rest in Jesus.

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Much Awaited Answers!

I'm a little slow giving an update on my blog, but we finally made progress in getting some answers for many of the health issues I have had in the past couple of years.  In April, I started seeing a new doctor at Forward Health Solutions in Hattiesburg, and the Friday before last, we received the results of twenty-one tests that had been ordered.

We discovered that my thyroid levels were low, my adrenals were low, and my hormone levels were completely out of whack.  Having a basically nonexistent progesterone level was the explanation for all of the miscarriages I have had.  In fact, it is an absolute miracle that we have Abby and Pax.  Progesterone is essential to sustaining a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks of life, and it's amazing that I did not lose the kids we have with my low levels.  God has been so good to us in ways we never even knew.
Pax and me on Mother's Day at Waffle House
Also, we learned that I am very, very low in iron.  Though we still aren't sure what caused my labs to be so off yet, we do have a plan of action now.  I'll be receiving weekly iron injections in addition to supplements to try to boost everything that is off.  I am very hopeful that I will begin to have a normal energy level again within a few months as we work on adjusting everything to get it just right again.

I am so very thankful that this appointment was productive and helpful.  After hearing so many times that everything was "normal" when I knew everything was not, it is a huge relief to know I will be able to overcome the fatigue I have been battling for so long now.

Abby and me playing flower princesses one morning in May
As for my diet, I tried eating Paleo last month to see if it would help at all, but honestly, I'm just more of a fan of eating gluten free clean cuisine style.  It works better for my family, and I feel better with that diet specifically.  However, I did learn some great Paleo recipes that I will continue incorporating into our diet in the future.

It's my hope as my energy returns again that I will be able to blog more again in the future.

For now, I am so grateful to be on the right path to feeling good and am so thankful that God directed us where we needed to go to get some answers that we needed very much.

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Living Faith in a Marriage

I first watched the video of this couple's testimony this past year, and I was deeply moved.  I cannot imagine living in their circumstances.  Jesus is so very good and faithful.

This love story is absolutely beautiful.

Here's an update a year later:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bucking the System

Once again, I've dropped off the blog radar for a period of time, because life has been unpredictable here. I've been struggling with a host of GI issues since I became pregnant with Pax, but switching to a strict gluten free diet has pretty much eliminated all of those symptoms. Praise God! That is a huge step forward for my health.

However, though I have not talked about it as much, I am still battling a chronic fatigue that comes and goes like a beast.  

When I say it's fatigue, I don't mean a tiredness that is normal from being a mom of two little ones. It's a weariness that knocks me on my back and makes me too exhausted to be able to sit up in a chair for long periods of time. It's frustrating. It's discouraging. It's humbling.

I haven't talked about it much except with close friends and family, because I did not want to deal with other peoples' opinions and their labels on top of this illness.  

It's not depression, though I wish it could be fixed with a pill.  It's not laziness, because I am too type A to be lazy for longer than an hour.  (Anyone who knows me just smirked at that comment.)  It's not predictable.  I went for a few weeks without a single episode and thought it was gone, but then it returned this week and had me down for two days.  I hate it.

This past week I started seeing a new doctor that specializes in integrative medicine.  I'm really hopeful that she will be able to give us direction in how to help me heal or at least deal with this better.  I'm starting a Paleo diet this month per her recommendation.  My doctor is ordering more tests to try to help us figure out exactly what this fatigue is and why I keep miscarrying.  Chances are they are connected.

Why blog about all of this now after I have kept it mostly private for two years?  

Well, I realized something this morning.  I love to blog.  It's my way of sharing what God is doing through my life. However, I've really felt like I did not fit the correct "blogger format" for a while.  You see, most blogs go something like this. A blogger shares their story about how something isn't going well... They may be in debt or are overweight or are sick. Then, the blog turns around as they share how they worked themselves out of debt, learned how to become fit, or figured out the secret of how they could become well. You get the picture.

My blog obviously doesn't fit into any of those categories. I don't have life figured out. I'm not debt free anymore. I'm not perfectly fit. I am certainly not a postcard picture of health. In my head, I subconsciously felt like I did not have the right to blog while I have so many unanswered questions... while I am vulnerable to criticism or opinions.

I'm bucking the system.  I am going to keep writing my story.  

I am going to pick up blogging again not for you but for me. Testifying about God's presence and faithfulness in this chaotic mess is my worship to God. I don't have all of the answers, and I probably never will.

In the end, maybe what all of us need is not another blog sharing about how they have it altogether but about a God who came down into this world and turned it upside down with His Son Jesus.


Life isn't neat. It can't be filed away in color coded categories. Sometimes, the good and the bad are just a blended up crazy mess that simply point to our need for a Savior and that help us long for a perfect place to go to one day.

Welcome to my blog. The good, the bad, the ugly. May we be transparent enough in our journeys to show people that Jesus is the One who holds us together and that we are a living testimony of His grace. In the end, Jesus is the One who satisfies... not a perfect bank account, not a rocking hard body, or an A plus on our medical report. May we strive together to show people Jesus is enough.

Jesus is enough for me.

Thanks for coming along this journey with me.

Ephesians 2:19-22 The Message

That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Most of my life's struggles can be summed up in this statement.

I want heaven to be here, and I want it now.

I long for a perfect world. I ache for it. I'm tired of seeing people hurt that I cannot "fix." I'm tired of seeing brokenness displayed in everything from a wilting flower to a failed marriage. Sometimes, the sadness everywhere is just too much.

In the past few weeks, Bryan and I have experienced the joy from an unexpected pregnancy to the deep grief of losing that little life all too soon. Miscarriage is just another reminder that this world has fallen from all it was supposed to be. Life ends all too soon.

In those moments, our flesh wants to cry out against God and shake our fist at His sovereignty, but in the end, we know that this mess is our fault. God created a perfect world, and humanity chose to abandon it to try to become like God. The terrible thing about our choice is that what we were seeking... God had already done. We already were like God... We were created in His image. We believed a lie and committed treason against our Creator. In the end, Sin marred everything that was already beautiful.

You feel it. I feel it. The effects of Sin are everywhere.

I am hurting. Losing three babies to miscarriages for no apparent reason is heartbreaking.

Some days, all I can think to say is Jesus come soon.

He will.

I long for the day when families won't be torn apart. Broken hearts will mend. Tears will be wiped away from every eye by the One who has borne our pain, who knows our shame, and who knew our failures but loved us and chose us still.

Oh Jesus, may we find you in our loss. Wrap us in Your Spirit. Don't waste our pain.

Revelation 21:3-5 

I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Later Review on Clairol Nice and Easy Nonpermanent Hair Color

Can I just be honest?  A whiny, complaining blog is the absolutely worst to read.

I never want to be that blogger.

But, I don't want to be a lier.  I don't want to recommend products that turn out to be a total disaster.

If you remember, I wrote a blog (click here to read it) about being chosen to try out Clairol's Nice and Easy nonpermanent hair color as part of a blogger program for facing coloring fears.

Initially, I loved the product.  The color was great.  The idea of not having to commit was fantastic.  The application was easy and felt good on my hair.  My blog about my first impressions with this product was completely genuine.

Sadly, it was too good to be true.

I used Clairol's Nice and Easy hair color more than once, and the subsequent applications were not reliable.   After my first blog, I went darker, and the color was still pretty, but I didn't feel like it was consistently gentle on my hair.  To my horror, the color would NOT wash out.  I developed a lovely roots stripe as the color simply would not fade.

I tried EVERYTHING... Ok, well maybe not everything.  I didn't shave my head.  While I typically am very anti-shampoo, because sodium lauryl sulfate is a curl killer (we'll save that for another blog), I used clarifying shampoo to no avail.  I tried grinding Vitamin C up into shampoo and letting it sit to loosen the color.  I only ended up with a nasty scalp rash.   I tried baking soda and vinegar rinses.  I tried hot oil treatments.  I tried almost every suggestion I could find on any hair forum anywhere and absolutely nothing worked.

In desperation, I contacted Clairol's customer service through their online chat line, and I realized I was in trouble.

This was my conversation.

(Name of the service rep changed for her privacy.  It's not her fault she works for a company that sells bad products.  She was nice and as helpful as she could be.)

Chrissy: Thank you for contacting Clairol!  My name is Chrissy.  How may I help you?
Anna Cirlot: Hi, I dyed my hair black with Clairol's Nice N Easy Nonpermanent hair color at the end of December, and it's not washing out evenly.  My roots are showing at the top, but the tips of my hair are still very dark black.  
Anna Cirlot: I really want to go back to my natural hair color, and I thought it was supposed to wash out evenly.
Chrissy: I am so sorry that you didn't like your results, Anna!  
Chrissy: Non-permanent colors are pretty shade specific.  They have just enough color deposit in them to wash out in about 24-28 shampoos or 4-6 weeks if you are not going any darker than the natural color.
Chrissy: If you do go darker than the natural color, it will put more pigment in the hair than it is able to lose in the normal time period.  This can cause the color to last longer than we would originally expect.
Chrissy: I am so sorry, but if the color hasn't washed out since December, I would have to suggest that you either continue to wash the hair and let the color come out naturally or you visit a salon to lighten the color.
Anna Cirlot: Ok.  Thanks for the advice.
Chrissy: It was a pleasure assisting you today.  Is there anything else I can help you with?
Anna Cirlot: Nope.  That's it.  Thanks.
Chrissy: If you have further questions about hair coloring or hair care, please feel free to chat with us again, or call our Clairol hotline at 1-800-CLAIROL (1-800-252-4765) Monday through Friday between 8:30 AM and 8:30 PM or Saturday between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM, Eastern Time.
Chrissy: Have a great day, Anna!
Chrissy has disconnected.

That's where Clairol left me.  According to them, I should have known better than to dye my hair the shade I did.

Seriously, Clairol?  What was the whole blogger campaign about not being afraid to try a new color?  To take a chance at a bolder look?

Don't be fooled.  Clairol's Nice and Easy nonpermanent hair color may wash out for some, but it doesn't wash out for everyone every time.  

It's not low risk as promised.  They know that but still market it the same.  

In the end, I had to visit a professional hair salon to have my color fixed.  The results were so shamefully dramatic that my stylist (who is also a friend) entered my before and after photos in a makeover contest with my consent.  She totally rocked the hair fix, so I was completely cool with it.

Before: I soooo definitely hid my roots line when take this before photo.  I'll admit it.  I was too embarrassed to even take a photo for the blog.  Thankfully, I at least liked the rest of it black.
After: My stylist creatively highlighted and toned my hair until it all meshed together nicely.  It will take me months to get back to my natural color.  While I usually am a die hard curly girl, you can see the color better when it's straight.  Forgive the low quality iphone photos.

But, hello?  Wasn't the whole point of using a nonpermanent hair color to avoid hair dye mistakes like this?  Well, apparently not.

You've been warned.  Clairol's Nice and Easy nonpermanent hair color is not your friend.

I'm done with at home coloring jobs.

My Final Review for "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Back in January, I received a free copy of the book, "Who Do You Think You Are?" by Mark Driscoll, and I wrote a teaser review (click here to read it) as part of Mars Hill's official street team to promote the book on my social networks.  Though life hasn't played out at all according to my plan to read and review this book quickly, I completely believe it has worked out the way God would have it.

This book was a God-sent.  

Unlike many books that barely scrape the surface of who a believer is in Jesus, this book is a comprehensive course on a very powerful topic.  I've been blowing up my newsfeed on facebook for the past few months with quote after quote from "Who Do You Think You Are?" because I completely believe in this message.  I think one of the great errors in the modern church is that we have forgotten who we really are.

When I originally heard that Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington was working on this book, I was stoked.  

I love how clearly he communicates the Gospel using examples from the culture we live in.  He is dead-on accurate in Biblical theology.  So, of course, when I heard they were looking for a blogger street team, I happily applied, and I couldn't be more pleased to share with you what I have learned as I have dove into this book these past few months.

True to his typical teaching style, Pastor Mark breaks this book down into 16 easily digestible chapters that are memorable and helpful.  

1.  I Am ______?
2.  I Am in Christ
3.  I Am a Saint
4.  I Am Blessed
5.  I Am Appreciated
6.  I Am Saved
7.  I Am Reconciled
8.  I Am Afflicted
9.  I Am Heard
10.  I Am Gifted
11.  I Am New
12.  I Am Forgiven
13.  I Am Adopted
14.  I Am Loved
15.  I Am Rewarded
16.  I Am Victorious

Though I had originally intended to read through this book in a weekend, I am so very thankful that life spun out of control, and I had to work through each chapter slowly.  I encourage you to take the time to read through this book intentionally and really let the implications of each chapter sink in and saturate your heart and mind deeply.  

The Biblical truths found in these pages are life altering.  

Even if you have been in church your whole life, you can still learn and receive from this book.  Our identity is constantly challenged and warped by the world we live in.

In ministry, not only do we as a pastoral family suffer, we meet many people who are suffering.  I believe the difference between suffering well and suffering poorly is in knowing who we are in Christ.  

If our roots grow down deep into the all-sufficiency and peace of Jesus, nothing on this earth can shake us.  My dear friends, that's something for hell to fear.

In conclusion, I'd like to share some favorite quotes with you.  

"We're continually forgetting who we are in Christ and filling that void by placing our identity in pretty much anything else?"

Does that sound like you?

"How we see ourselves is our identity."

Who do you think you are?  This will determine your life's course.

"In the eyes of God, our choices, values, expenditures, words, actions, and thoughts are all acts of worship.  They make up our identity.  The only question is, what is your object of worship?"

Who do you really worship?  Your life will tell.

"True life is only found in the holy joy, love, and peace that flow through us by the work of His Spirit."

Do you have true life in Jesus?  Are you His?

"The truth is that we deserve love less than we could ever imagine, yet Jesus loves us more than we could ever dream."

"... For those of us in Christ, this life is the closest to hell we will ever get, and victory is ultimately ours."

"So who do you think you are?  If you love Jesus, serve Him, follow Him, and call Him your Lord and Savior.  There's good news: in Christ you have a new identity.  And the great news about this good news is that once you really know and believe that, your life will be changed forever."

I highly recommend "Who Do You Think You Are?" by Pastor Mark Driscoll.  It's a journey through Scripture that every Christian should take to be reminded of who they are in Christ.

*Blog Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book to review, but the opinions I have expressed are completely my own.  I liked the book so much that I bought a kindle version on my own to use for highlighting and studying purposes later.*

Buy your own copy below.  A great study guide is now available too!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Well, today Bryan preached on providence, and I lived it out.  Since my story today is too ridiculously covered in God's grace not to share, here you go.

I ate a banana last night while Bryan and I were watching a movie.  Suddenly, the roof of my mouth started burning and itching, and I felt my forearms break out in hives.  Realizing that the banana was setting off an allergic reaction, I took two Benadryl, and everything calmed down as expected.  I'd never had an allergic reaction to anything I had eaten before, but I had some pretty strange reactions to latex in nursing school that always seemed to pop up when I was under a lot of stress.  Maybe, the banana is related to that allergy?  A quick search on Google seems to indicate so.

I went to bed as normal.  When I woke up this morning, I made a strawberry protein mix smoothie while I was getting everyone ready for church and drank it as I cleaned up the kitchen.  Within thirty minutes or so, I was in the bathroom really sick.  I put Pax down for a nap.  Bryan and Abby left early for church, and I jumped in the shower to shake feeling awful.  By the time I got out of the shower, my face and arms were covered in hives, and I took two more Benadryl.   I called Bryan to let him know what was going on, and I kept getting ready for church thinking that the Benadryl would stop whatever had started.  I pulled out an old epipen just in case, but I seriously doubted I needed it.  I had never used one before.  While I was drying my hair, I started to feel like my throat was tightening, and I began to feel a little anxious.  I tried to rationalize it away thinking that maybe I was psyching myself out.

When it kept getting worse, I walked into the kitchen and opened the freezer to let the cool air blow into my face.  It helped.  I realized I was indeed having an anaphylactic reaction to something I had eaten, and I grabbed my epipen.  Pax woke up at the same time from his nap and was in his crib crying for me.  I stuck myself and felt almost instant relief.  At this point, the symptoms were so strong that I didn't even notice the prick of the needle.  I just knew I could breathe again, and I thanked God for the relief.  I called Bryan and told him I needed a ride to the ER but that I was fine now.  Of course, all of this happened minutes before the church service was starting.  Since I felt good enough to let the church schedule run as usual, I told Bryan to stay and preach.  The epinephrine was working.  I grabbed Pax, loaded his diaper bag with adrenaline shaking hands, and waited outside for our church friends to take us to the ER.

By the time I got to the ER, I felt pretty normal.  I was just jittery from the epi pen and a little shaken up that I had second guessed myself over something so serious.  If I had passed out, I could have died.  The ER doctor confirmed that I had had an anaphylactic reaction to something I had eaten, and I was given oral steroids to try to prevent another delayed reaction.  I now have two more epi pens to tote with me everywhere I go from now on.  Believe you me, we will be like peas in a pod.

I didn't know that Bryan was preaching on providence today until we talked about everything that had happened tonight.

What you don't know is that a medication leaked in our medicine cabinet a couple of weeks ago, and I almost threw away my epipen, because it had expired six years ago.  I didn't, because I decided an expired epipen might be a good thing to have around just in case.  I figured it would probably still work.  It did.

Though the half hour before a service starts is crunch time, Bryan had just happened to check his phone again, so he got the message that I needed help asap.  If he hadn't, my story may have played out differently.

I'm a registered nurse by training, and my experiences with latex reactions during nursing school prepped me to know how to recognize and respond to an anaphylactic reaction.  It saved my life today.

God's fingerprints are covering this whole scenario, and it's by His grace that I am alive and writing this blog tonight.  I am very thankful that God is in control of everything from the frustrating reactions I had years ago to the simple decisions I have made this month without much thought.  God is good.  It looks like He is going to let me hang around a little while longer and tell you how very good He is.

Talk about a grace kissed life.  I have it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Learning to Move On

Well, this blog post is long overdue.  I have wanted to check in again for a while, but I just didn't know what to write.  Free time has been scarce.  About every virus in the county has visited our house in the past few months, and either the kids or I or both have been down.  It's not been a fun season.

Since January, I've been on the low fodmap diet per my GI dr's orders.  While it helped to resolve some of the GI issues I was having, it did not eliminate them, and it completely zapped my energy.  I went to a dietician to try to make sure that I was getting enough nutrition on it and learned that I knew more about the diet than she did.  Fast forward to March, I decided I couldn't manage my blood sugar well enough on the low fodmap, and I decided to just go strictly gluten free again.  Two weeks later, my GI symptoms have been almost erased, and I am starting to have more energy again with less down days.

Two years of medical treatment later and random diagnoses have landed me in the same spot I began this journey on.  I must be gluten intolerant.  I don't need a test to tell me what I already know from experience.  Any time I eat something with gluten in it.  I get sick.  Really sick.  So sick that it knocks me on my back for a few days like the flu.  My tummy bloats like I am pregnant.  I get brain fog that dumbs me down.  It's nasty stuff.

Honestly, I feel kind of jaded and frustrated with the medical community at this point.  While gluten intolerance is a legitimate medical diagnosis, very few seems to know about it in my area.  Because I was afraid of following a strict diet for relief that was "all in my head," I gave up on it, and I have spent the past year off it much sicker than I needed to be.  I can't blame them entirely.  I'm at fault too.

I was gluten free for almost my entire pregnancy with Pax, because it was the only thing that helped me survive the GI symptoms that I had.  Eating gluten meant throwing up thirty or more times a day.  Not eating gluten meant retaining my calories.  It only took a couple of doctors doubting that I had gluten intolerance to give me the excuse to eat freely again, because it is so much cheaper to eat "normal."  Instead of being strong enough to be my own advocate, I caved to their opinions, and it's made life tougher than it needed to be.  Heck, I have huge blocks of time that I simply don't remember, because I was just existing- not living.

I'm moving on.  I know gluten and I will never be friends again.  I hate that I had to take such a long journey to get here, but I'm here.  I really dislike that I will have to check the label of anything that goes in my mouth from this point on, and I really, really hate that I am going to be the kind of dinner guest that is impossible to cook for.  However, this is my life.  Denial won't make my health return.

Hello, my name is Anna.  I have gluten intolerance.  My life is not over.  It's really just beginning.  Apparently, this is part of the story God wants me to tell.

What are you in denial over?  What secret struggle do you have that you've let rest for far too long without dealing with it?  What do you avoid because you know the cost is high and the road is uncomfortable or awkward?  It may not be an illness.  It may be an addiction.  If it is ruining your life and moving you off the mission of loving and serving Jesus well, it's time to deal with it by God's grace.

Let's move forward together and just accept the story God has written for us.  In the end, we're not just telling our story.  All of our stories are simply weaving together to tell His... a story about a God who generously loves, redeems, and equips a broken, helpless people and makes them into something new for His name's sake... a perfect bride for His Son Jesus.

Will you take the risk with me?  Let's move forward for the sake of Christ.  Our time here is short.  Let's make the most of this life.

"28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Romans 8:28-30

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why I Run

I started running this past November.  I'd tried training with the C25K program the summer before but had been benched by an orthopedic doctor for a knee problem, and I thought the responsible thing to do was to quit.  By the end of this past year, the chronic pain in my stomach was driving me crazy, and I tried running again as a trial for pain relief.

I was starting to give up on the medical community for answers, and I needed a healthy way to handle the stress of it all.  

After jogging one mile out of shape and gasping, I realized that my stomach ache was almost completely cured.  I was hooked.

My running partner and me after a jog last November.
It's mid January now, and I am still running.  I shoot for jogging at least a couple of miles three times a week. Sometimes, I get to do it more often, and sometimes, life happens and I get benched.  But, I keep going.

I run in the sunshine.  I run in the rain.  I run when it's warm and nice, and I run when it is so cold that the neighborhood dogs refuse to chase me.

I don't run because I find it easy.  I don't run because it makes me look cool.  Every run, I have to decide that I am going to finish it before I start.  I'm pretty sure I look like a flapping, skinny crane going down a runway every time I pass someone on the street.  Sometimes, I even laugh at myself, because I know I look awkward.  But, I don't care.

When I run, it helps me cope with life.  It reminds me of what it means to be a Christian.  In the good times and the bad, I run, because it reminds me that even when life seems impossible and overwhelming, the reward is coming.  Through the gasping and the struggling, I am being transformed into a newer, stronger person each time I stick it out.

At the end of every run as I cool down, I am glad that I didn't give up.

In the same way, I pray that at the end of my life, I will look back at this race have run and sigh with satisfaction knowing that I did my best in Christ's strength and that I ran my course well.  I didn't give up.  I finished by God's grace.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Building Update for Church@The Square

For those of you who have been following along with our church planting journey, here's a short video update from my handsome hubby.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sarah Mae Giveaway

If you're a tired mom, Sarah Mae's blog is doing a huge giveaway over the next 48 hours to promo a new book.

You can enter here:

I mean, what mom wouldn't love free massages for a year?

You can also enter below for a free year of housecleaning.  Super sweet.

A Little Teaser

Who am I?  That's the question we ask ourselves over and over again.  I recently joined the street team for Pastor Mark Driscoll to promote his new book, "Who Do You Think You Are?" and received a free copy of the book to review it and promote it on the social media outlets I'm on.  I can't tell you how excited I am about this book coming out right now.

God is so gracious to give us resources to serve and love Him better when we really need it.  This book is timely for me.

I'm not even halfway through with the book yet, so this won't be a full review.  That's still coming soon. I'd like to share a little about my personal journey with identity struggles.

I grew up being the "smart kid" in class.  I didn't choose the label- it chose me.  In fact, though I naturally like to talk to people and meet people, I became more and more introverted as I progressed through school.  I figured out pretty fast that if I didn't talk much that I could hide how "smart" I was from everyone else.  I absolutely resented my intelligence being the only thing people knew about me.  I was so much more!

Year after year goes by, the "smart kid" label sticks, so I give up.  I submit to the identity, so I decide that if I'm the smart kid that I better choose a "smart kid" career path.  I did.  I chose to go towards the medical field... the obvious choice in my mind for successful people.  So,  I took AP classes.  I scored high on tests.  I became the valedictorian.  When people teased me, I comforted myself with the fact that one day they'd be working for me or wish they were me.  It was sad.  It was selfish.  It was true.

"In the eyes of God, our choices, values, expenditures, words, actions, and thoughts are all acts of worship. They make up our identity. The only question is, what is your object of worship?" Mark Driscoll... Who Do You Think You Are?

Fast forward to college, I'm dating a guy I want to marry, so I choose to become a nurse instead of a doctor.  I thought that would be easier with a family life, but I'm still completely career driven.  I work hard, make good grades, graduate in the top of my nursing class, and secure a great job with decent benefits. I'm married in the midst of it all but don't slow down any with climbing my career ladder that I have planned out. Then, crash.

A car accident later, I'm stuck in a wheelchair, angry at God, and helpless to do anything without my new husband's assistance.

Enter: the identity crisis.  I was no longer able to be defined by how "valuable" I was.  In my mind, a "smart girl" in a wheelchair was still a cripple.  I was so stuck on being perfect that anything less was broken and ruined.

It's been almost six years now since that terrible accident, and I am so very grateful for it now.  God used that abrasive life interruption to completely change my life course.  It was there in the stillness, the pain, the shame, and the anger that God began to work in my heart and teach me who I really was in Christ.

I wasn't a cripple.  I was the daughter of the King.  God didn't know me just as a "smart kid."  He knew me inside and out.  I was dearly loved.  Treasured.  I was His.

God wanted to use me to tell His story through mine.  Though my whole life I had been striving to make much of myself to cover the hurt I felt inside, God invited me to make much of Him and find peace by living life His way for His glory instead.

"You aren't what you do but rather what Jesus has done for you." Mark Driscoll... Who Do You Think You Are?

I'd like to tell you from that point on that I have had my identity figured out.  It's been a journey.  God has led me through many different seasons and changes, and each time I have learned to let go more of an identity I had tried to make for myself.  I'm learning to find out who I am in Jesus.

Being married to a church planter, I meet tons of people and learn about their joys and their struggles.  We are all searching for an identity.  Few find it in Jesus.

It's my prayer that as I work through this book myself that God will solidify who I am in Christ and that I will be able to share this review with you to help you figure out who you are too.

 I invite you to take this journey with me.  You can download a free chapter of the book here. 

As of today, you can also buy the entire book to read yourself.  So here we go, dear friends, let's explore who we were created to be.

Since today's the day to promo for the book launch, use the hashtag #WDYTYAwin if you tweet about it. That's a unique hashtag for myself and all of my followers to enter to win a copy of the hardback book AND study guides. Feel free to retweet my posts to enter to win!
 You can find me on twitter here: 
Full Disclosure: I recently joined the street team for Pastor Mark Driscoll to promote his new book, "Who Do You Think You Are?" and received a free copy of the book to review it and promote it on the social media outlets I'm on. 

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